- Result: Galwegians Firsts 19 - Cork Constitution 20
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sun Apr 16th 2006
- Competition: AIL Division 1
Galwegians suffered an agonising last-gasp defeat at home to play-off contenders Cork Con in a gripping contest in Crowley Park on Easter Sunday. It was sport at its cruellest for this young Wegians team who played outstandingly well for periods against the recently crowned AIB Cup champions, and if ever the better side ended up losing a contest, this was surely it.
With a severely weakened side on paper, shorn of all Connacht interpros in their starting line-up, this was probably Galwegians’ best performance of the season as they put their much vaunted opponents to the sword for over 80 minutes of the game. But therein lies the rub, for this was a contest that lasted over 91 minutes courtesy of Munster referee Dermot Moloney who played an astonishing 11 minutes of added time in the second-half. But the visitors were certainly not complaining as they ran in two converted tries in stoppage-time to deny their stunned hosts the spoils. However even the most ardent of Con fans admitted afterwards that they truly got out of jail in this one.
After soaking up some early pressure, the home side soon got into their stride, and indeed they opened the scoring on 10 minutes when good work from the excellent U-20 out-half Brian Murphy set up an attack opportunity. And from the resulting scrum, inspirational home skipper Ambrose Conboy barged his way over the line despite the attention of three defenders for a great try, which was superbly converted by Brendon Bartley for a 7-0 lead.
While the visitors had some good periods of possession and territory, they rarely threatened, although out-half Darragh Lyons missed two very kickable penalties in the opening quarter. The Galwegians pack was vastly superior in most facets of the game, except for a wayward line-out at times, and their fledgling backline rarely looked out of place either, led superbly by half-backs Tom Ellard and Brian Murphy, as they dealt comfortably with the visitors for long periods of this game.
Wegians seemed to get the perfect boost before half-time when an excellent intercept by AIL debutant, no. 8 Aaron McGettigan almost led to a try, but moments later the pressure told as prop Ross Davies finished off some excellent work by Conboy and Ellard to dive over near the posts for a second try. However uncharacteristically, but crucially, Bartley struck the post with his conversion attempt to leave it 12-0 at half-time.
A clearly rattled Con side upped the ante in the second-half, yet for all their pressure they could find no way passed the visitor’s superb defensive line. And all they had to show for their efforts in the third quarter was a brace of penalties by out-half Lyons and centre Conor Quaid to reduce arrears to 6 points with an hour gone. Wegians then wrestled back the initiative in the final quarter, and following a period of sustained pressure, Cork Con hooker Des Murray earned a yellow card on 70 minutes for persistent infringing. Barely three minutes later his front-row colleague Mike Ross joined him in the bin, and when awarded a third penalty close-in, Wegians wisely opted for a scrum, and Conboy picked and was easily mauled over the line by his marauding pack for what looked like the winning score, with Murphy converting for good measure for a 19-6 lead.
However, Cork Con are nothing if not resilient, and to their credit they kept plugging away. When Wegians’ hooker Conor Muldoon was sin-binned on 79 minutes and prop Ross Davies substituted with injury, they had a chink of light, and they capitalised when winger Diarmuid O’Riordan crossed on the right for a try in the 81st minute, which was crucially converted by Quaid. Two minutes Quaid almost turned villain when pinged for not releasing outside his 22, but unfortunately Brian Murphy misjudged the strong cross-breeze and his penalty effort sailed wide.
Then came what seemed an interminable finish, for while referee Moloney had initially signalled 4 extra minutes, play somehow lasted until the 92nd minute when persistent Con pressure led to a last-gasp try for left-winger Cronin Healy. Although Healy was promptly sin-binned for cynically punching Galwegians’ Peter Phelan after scoring, the try stood and centre Quaid held his nerve to land the conversion and steal the points for Con.
It was the most dramatic of finishes possible and utter devastation for the young Wegians team who will almost certainly go into the final game of the season still unsure of their fate in the battle to avoid relegation. Ironically Cork Con can do them a favour by beating Trinity College in their final League game in Cork on Saturday week, while Wegians face an equally tough assignment away to joint table-toppers Clontarf in Castle Avenue.